Seaweed is commonly used in cosmetics. Apart from its ultra-hydrating and humectant qualities, seaweed also boasts anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s packed with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense snack and skin care ingredient. Natural antibacterial properties make it an ideal ingredient for acne, rosacea, and sensitive skin. Seaweed, kelp, and algae are all-natural sources of skin-loving vitamins and minerals. That’s why you’ll see them in hundreds of skin care formulas.
Because of how fast it can grow, seaweed and algae are both used in the production of animal feed, as a cheap alternative to some land based plants. Some types of seaweed are used as a dietary supplement for cows to keep them healthy, while others are used as chicken feed.
The Philippines is the world’s third largest producer of seaweed, following China and Indonesia (FAO, 2018). Seaweed is the top commodity produced by the aquaculture fisheries sub-sector with a total production of 1.49 million metric tons (64 (Philippine Fisheries Profile, 2019). Among the major seaweed-producing regions are Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), MiMaRoPa, and Zamboanga Peninsula (Philippine Fisheries Profile, 2019). Seaweed exports in the Philippines reach between $200 and $250 million per year. As is the case with much of the $14 billion dollar global seaweed market, much of this is sold to neighboring countries in Asia. Many new seaweed processing facilities have been erected in places like Indonesia and India in recent years, as the seaweed market is set to grow at an average rate of about 10.8% per year until 2028. This puts it among the fastest growing agricultural markets in the world.
Much effort has been put in past decades towards producing biofuels from seaweed. Considering that most fossil fuels we burn today comes from the remains of ancient seaweed which grew during the times of the dinosaurs, these efforts make sense. If ancient seaweed produced all of our oil, then why can’t modern seaweed produce our oil just as well, and in a more sustainable manner? It seems like it would be a lot easier to grow it, than to suck it out of the ground, and in addition, since it would extract carbon from the atmosphere to make the oil in the first place, it would be completely carbon neutral. Seaweed is highly suitable for biofuel. Between 85% and 90% of seaweed is water, which means it is very suitable for biofuel-making methods like anaerobic digestion to make biogas and fermentation to make ethanol. In addition, many seaweed species, like sugar kelp, have high carbohydrate and low lignin content that is perfect for making bioethanol. It is one of the most efficient species, especially in absorbing nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen. Because seaweed grows very fast, it can absorb a lot of CO2, in fact up to 66 tonnes of CO2 per hectare, which can help tackle ocean acidification.
Finally, if all of this were not enough, a new use for algae that has just started recently is in the plastics industry. Since we know that we can produce all of the same fuel products we get from oil out of algae, why not plastic? Recent efforts have seen scientists try to branch out the useful products we can get from algae, to make this green organism more useful to modern industry, and today, we now know that plastics can be made from algae byproducts that are approaching cost effectiveness, and best of all, they are completely biodegradable.